August 12, 2012

Sermon, Tenth Sunday after Trinity

God and Prayer
Psalm 145, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Luke 19:41-47
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
August 12, 2012

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Bishop J. C. Ryle wrote that the habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian. Certainly prayer is one of the means by which God draws us into Himself, and He has ordained that His blessings are released, in part, through prayer. It is no surprise, then, that we should talk about prayer often in the Church, as we do on this Tenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect for this day is a prayer about prayer. It asks God to hear our prayers, and to shape our being in such a way that we will pray for the things that please God. This is very similar to the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter in which we asked God to enable us to love the things He commands and desire the things He promises. Surely this is the heart of prayer and the heart's desire of every true Christian. Today's reading from 1 Corinthians shows that our prayers must be guided by the Holy Spirit, otherwise we are tempted to ask for things that do not edify, and even abuse the gifts of God. How does the Holy Spirit guide our prayers? He teaches us to pray Biblically, that is, in accordance with what God reveals about His will and purpose in the Bible. In other words, the Spirit leads us to ask God to help us love the things He commands, and desire the things He promises. It was not in our reading today, but verse 31 leads us to seek the best things from God, meaning the more excellent way of love. The Gospel, from Luke 19, shows the danger of neglecting Biblical prayer. Jerusalem, meaning the Jews, had not prayed for the things that give real peace. They did not love the things God commanded or want the things God promised to give. They did not pray for the things that please God, like real faith or real holiness. Nor did they pray to be close to God, to be enabled to love Him above all else, and to find their joy and meaning in life in Him and His service. They sought peace and prosperity of the flesh, not of the soul, and they turned the House of Prayer into a house of thievery, and Jesus wept.

Psalm 145 is a proclamation of praise for the wonderful grace and power of God, and it is wonderfully relevant to those who pray. If God were not graceful, full of grace, He would be unwilling to answer prayer, and if He were not powerful He would be unable to answer. So the message of this Psalm is vitally connected to the other passages we have read today, and to the request we have taken to God in the Collect.

Psalms 145-150 close of the book of Psalms with six hymns of praise. The trials and troubles of earth, which are so prevalent in the rest of the book, have no place in these Psalms. From here to the end of the book we are caught up in the adoration of the great God who delivers us from the world and takes us at last to His Home in Heaven. St. Augustine noted this, as did Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, and an Anglican minister I know only as S. Conway, who wrote that, in these Psalms, "We have left the region of sighs and tears and piteous entreaties, and are, as one says, in the Beulaah land, where the sun shineth night and day."

Psalm 145 has two primary points. First, God is gracious. God intends good things for His people. He intends better things for you than you are able to ask or think.. This idea permeates the Psalm, and is expressed in the words of verses 8 and 9; "The Lord is gracious and merciful; long-suffering, and of great goodness. The Lord is loving unto every man; and His mercy is over all His works." The second point is the faith response of those who dwell in the grace of God. This idea also permeates the entire Psalm and it is concretely stated in the very first verse of the Psalm, "I will magnify thee, O God my King, and I will praise thy Name forever and ever."

"The Lord is gracious." This is not a dry, intellectual statement of doctrine. This is the expression of God's life-orientation and the disposition of His being toward you.. You are unworthy of God through your manifold sins, but where sin abounds grace abounds even more, and the grace of God is greater than all your sin. In grace God receives you as an honoured guest in His House. In grace He forgives your sins and treats you as though you are righteous. In grace He gives you all good things, even His own self, His joy and being and blessedness and immortality. He gives these unto you freely, without cost to you, though at terrible cost to Himself. In grace you become a partaker of God. I did not say you become a god, or become part of God, or ever have any essence of divinity in yourself. But you are priviliged to see and enjoy God's perfect being now and forever. And in some way, the image of God in which you were created, but which has been destroyed by sin, is being restored in you. One day it will be fully restored so that you will no longer be subject to sin and temptation, or live in doubts or fears, or be subject to disease and death, or live in a place of sorrow, as the earth is now. You will be as God intends you to be, and you will dwell in a land of perfect peace and joy in God.

It is grace that brought you into God. In grace He came to seek and to save that which was lost, you. In grace He bore your sins on the cross. In grace He made you able to believe His Gospel, and in grace He is re-making your soul so that you can begin to desire the things of God and to love Him more and more. In grace He continues to love you, though you are still very far from being perfect. In grace He will take you into His Mansion of Mansions where He has prepared a place for you, and in grace you will be at home in Heaven for a forever of forevers.

This is what God wants for you. This is that good that He is doing for you that is exceeding abundantly above all that you are able to ask or think, but which He has promised to those who love Him and trust Him in faith

And so we come to another of the major points of Psalm 145, and of the entire Bible, which is the faith response to God's grace. The Psalm begins and ends with bold statements of faith. "I will magnify thee, O God, my King." "My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh give thanks unto His holy Name, for ever and ever."

Biblical faith is more than just believing a few doctrines about Jesus. Biblical faith is the Christian's total response to the grace of God. It is the life-attitude and the life-orientation of those who have received the grace of God. Faith is the life-attitude-orientation of living in the the grace of God; of intentionally dwelling and existing in the unmerited, unearned love of God.

This kind of faith is naturally producing changes in you. Since you have received the grace of God, you have begun to value what God values and love what God loves. You have begun to be able to mourn over the self-destructive life-styles of people who do not live in His grace. You mourn for them because you know they are self-destructive, and because you long to see them become whole and clean and free by the grace of God too. You have started to become a person of peace, a peacemaker. This means that you try very hard not to be a source of strife yourself, and that you attempt to wage the peace of God in this strife-filled world. You have started to live a more righteous and holy life. Things like Church, Christian fellowship, the Bible, morality, and the sacraments, have started to claim your interest, and some of the things that once seemed so important to you have begun to be less important, boring, and, even detestable compared to the things of God. You are not the same old you any more. You are a new being, a new creature, created in Christ Jesus by His grace. And. most of all, you have begun to really love God. I am not talking about a silly emotionalism. I am talking about a desire for God above all else. Your life desire and purpose is to magnify God as your God and King. All of this is what the Bible means by the word, "faith." This is what we seek when we pray;

"Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

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